Just two years after winning the U23 cross country national championships, Stephen Ettinger (BMC) won his first elite cross country title by taking the win at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon. Todd Wells (Specialized) rolled in for second place ahead of Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) in third.
The six-lap race for the gold was between those top three men on a hot and humid Pennsylvania summer afternoon. Predicted thunderstorms held off, and the men enjoyed dry course conditions as the other categories have all weekend.
"I'm so happy right now," said Ettinger. "It's huge to win this."
Wells set the pace early in the race with Bishop. The two quickly gained 30 seconds on Ettinger.
"Off the start, I did not think that win was going to happen," said Ettinger. "I got caught up in a little bit of mess and was seventh or eighth. I lost JB and Todd's wheel in the woods. I thought I'd be racing for third the rest of the race."
"Maybe those guys went out a little too hard and it was a blessing in disguise that I wasn't able to stick on their wheel. I was able to ride within myself the rest of the time. It worked out to my advantage."
During the race, Bishop seemed to fade as did Wells, and then top three were abruptly back together again on lap four of the six-lap race. Ettinger paced himself and got stronger as the race went on.
"I was riding my race as much as I could. It was so hot out there," said Ettinger. "As soon as I saw them coming back, it was a huge motivator and I gave it a little more gas."
"I knew I had to catch them and that's all that was going through my head," said Ettinger. "I caught JB and then he gapped me a little in the woods going across the bottom. When he kind of slowed up, I went around him on a rooty section. After that, he yo-yo'ed back off of me and popped. People kept telling me I was 12 seconds off Todd, and I finally saw him. I tried to keep my cadence high and ride up to him."
Wells said, "I was surprised that they came back to me. I wasn't surprised that Ettinger was going good because we've been battling all season, but I was surprised to get that gap and then have him come back to me. I didn't feel like I was slowing down or making any mistakes. He was just riding faster."
"Most of the course was in the shade, but for being this hot, it was probably about as cool as it could be," said Wells, who did not blame the heat. "The last lap was my worst lap by far."
On the second-to-last lap, Ettinger realized he was descending faster than Wells and used it to his advantage to get away on the final lap.
"I tried to stay out of the red because I knew that for the past couple of weeks, Todd has been the stronger rider there at the end of the race. That's been my demise," said Ettinger.
"The same thing happened with Todd that had happened with JB the lap before. He gapped me and then I caught back up to him. I realized that if I had caught him on the descent on lap 4, I was going faster downhill than him. I realized I had to be in front of Todd going into the final descent. Going into the final lap, I had a little gap (10 seconds) and I kept it rolling. I kept the same pace I had."
Wells said, "Stephen caught me, attacked and rode away. Some of the downhills, you could really let it go, but I was trying to be careful so I didn't flat. That was working in the beginning of the race. I tried to increase my gap on the hills and keep it safe on the downhills, but later it didn't work. On the last lap, I pushed it on the downhills, but he was already there and going."
Ettinger went on to win solo in a time of 1:35:17. Wells finished second 49 seconds later.
"Of course, I wanted to win here and I felt like I had a good shot until halfway through the race," said Wells. "Stephen's been riding well this year and is on the way up, and it's good to see him have a good race. He didn't get to go to some of the World Cups, but hopefully now that he has the [stars and stripes] jersey, his team will take him to more of the World Cups."
Bishop rode in for third at 2:20.
"It wasn't my best day, but it was a good effort," said Bishop. "I wasn't fully back on after my crash last week. I was trying to downplay my injuries, but I had bruised a rib and knocked my head really good and injured my hip. Considering I didn't ride the first three days of this week, it was a good race. I was glad to get through the race and enjoy racing in front of the home crowd." Bishop hails from Virginia.
"The heat was a major factor for me. Todd seemed to be fading a bit, and I thought maybe it wasn't just me that was working so hard in the beginning. I raced to win and at the front, and I'm proud of a bronze. I've been racing in PA for 20 years - all over this area."
Spencer Paxson (Kona) finished a career best nationals fourth place. "It was awesome. I had to beat my seventh place streak of the last three years," he said. "My first goal was to improve, and those top three guys were in a league of their own today."
Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale) knocked out the final spot in the top five.
"The first lap, Jeremiah and Todd were hammering at the front. I came through the first lap in sixth. I had to back it off and then I slowly started working my way back up," he said.
"I was closing on Spencer for fourth in the last lap, but I couldn't quite get there. The past two years at Sun Valley, Spencer was seventh, and I was eighth and now he's fourth and I'm fifth."
The supporters of the Singlespeed Cyclo-cross World Championships in Philly coming up in December of 2013 started a cheering section which would build into a raucous crowd in the technical rocky downhill section of the course. Drinking beer and cheering and heckling loudly as each rider passed the "Hand-ups are not illegal" banner gave racers extra motivation through that section.
"The rock garden was ridiculous - it was like a World Cup," said Bishop.
"The crowd was awesome on the rock garden," said Wells. "I noticed there was someone there in a full body red suit on the warm up lap, but I didn't see them during the race because you're so focused. Warming up, I got to take all that in, and it was great to see everyone out there having a good time."
"The course was hard. It was a good old-style mountain bike course. It was fun."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Stephen Ettinger (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team)||1:35:17|
|2||Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing)||0:00:49|
|3||Jeremiah Bishop (Team Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:02:20|
|4||Spencer Paxson (Kona Factory Team)||0:05:28|
|5||Alexander Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:05:39|
|6||Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt)||0:07:18|
|7||Nicholas Waite (Pro Tested Gear)||0:09:41|
|8||Michael Broderick (Kenda/Seven/Stan's Notubes)||0:10:17|
|9||Justin Lindine (Redline)||0:11:00|
|10||Tristan Uhl (ATC Racing)||0:12:11|
|11||Mitchell Hoke (Mitch Hoke)||0:13:34|
|12||William Melone (Riverside Racing)||0:13:50|
|16||Travis (Tj) Woodruff (Momentum Endurance)||0:16:28|
|19||Robert Mccarty (Bike America Racing Team)||0:18:11|
|20||Victor Alber (Gearlink Racing Inc)||0:27:11|
|-2 lap||Joseph Maloney (Team Wisconsin/Ks Energy Services / Team Wisconsin)|
|-2 lap||Gian Dalle Angelini (Monster Systems Racing)|
|-2 lap||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar Cycling)|
|-2 lap||Ryan Woodall|
|-2 lap||Samuel Morrison (The Gear Movement Pro Cycling Team)|
|-2 lap||Thomas Sampson (Pemi-Baker Cycling Club)|
|-2 lap||Macky Franklin|
|-2 lap||Menso De Jong (Team Clif Bar Cycling)|
|-2 lap||Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar Cycling)|
|-2 lap||Keck Baker (Team Carytown Bicycle Company/Cannondale)|
|-2 lap||Bradford Perley (Champion System/Cannondale)|
|-2 lap||Eric Thompson|
|-2 lap||Justin Piontek|
|-2 lap||Tyler Gauthier (Range Mountain Bike Association/Culvers Racing)|
|-2 lap||Kevin Bradford-Parish (Monster Systems Racing/Team Nw Sho-Air / Raleigh)|
|-2 lap||Jordan Kahlenberg (Giant Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Team)|
|-3 lap||Ernie Watenpaugh (Jack Daniels Fighting Als)|
|-3 lap||Dave Weaver (Alan North America Cycling)|
|-3 lap||Sean Leader|
|-3 lap||John Burns|
|-3 lap||Noah Tautfest (Bicycle Express/Kona)|
|-3 lap||Alex Ryan (Mock Orange Bikes/Mock Orange Racing)|
|-3 lap||Jason Hilimire (The Gear Movement Pro Cycling Team)|
|-3 lap||Sam Chovan (Mafia Racing/Mafia Racing)|
|-3 lap||Matthew Williams|
|-3 lap||Mike Festa (Philadelphia Ciclismo)|
|-3 lap||Ben Ortt|
|-3 lap||Scott Hoffner (Team Priority Health)|
|-3 lap||Zachary Morrey|
|-3 lap||Daniel Bonora (Lost Boys Racing Inc)|
|-4 lap||Daniel Sturm (Black Bear Cycling/Black Bear Cycling/Sussex Bike Shop)|
|-4 lap||Gordon Wadsworth (Charlottesville Racing Club)|
|-4 lap||Todd Latocha (Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association)|
|-4 lap||Cole Oberman (Breakaway Racing-Pa)|
|-5 lap||John Gaston|
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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